Victoria and Albert – A Love Story
As the first anniversary of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, approaches later this week, we couldn’t help but reflect on the their love story and the fascination the world has for everything “royal”. So your Two Chums thought it would be fitting, (and fun) to get “caught up”, as it were, on the other love stories that have surrounded the British throne. Today we begin with one of the most famous and arguably the most culturally influential of all the monarchs of the British or any empire, Queen Victoria and the great love of her life, Prince Albert.
Known as the “grandmother of Europe”, Queen Victoria had nine children, all of whom married European royalty, thus spreading her family throughout the continent. She is the longest reigning monarch in Great Britain and the longest reigning female monarch in the world. It is because of this that we hear so much about her and her name is used in conjunction with so many things, for example, Victorian décor, Victorian ways of morality, Victorian dress, etc.
When Victoria was born in 1819, she was fifth in line to the throne which means that there were four people before her who would become the regnant after her uncle, King George IV, passed away. When her uncle did pass away, the four other people in line, including her father, had already passed away so Victoria became Queen. Victoria was just 18 years old when she took the throne in 1837. In her diary she wrote, “I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen.” Official documents prepared on the first day of her reign described her as Alexandrina Victoria, but the first name was withdrawn at her own wish and never used again. Quite an undertaking for an 18 year old girl.
Victoria was, as yet, unmarried but was aware of the various matrimonial plans that were being concocted by her mother. Victoria had met her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha , before she became Queen. She knew that her mother was thinking that he might be a good suitor for her. According to her diary, she enjoyed Albert’s company from the beginning. After the visit she wrote, “[Albert] is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful.” To her Uncle Leopold who had introduced the pair, Victoria wrote to thank him “for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert … He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.” Clearly, Victoria was smitten!
On 10 February, 1840, Victoria and Albert were married. The day after their wedding, Victoria wrote in her diary, “I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!”
This was the beginning of a wonderful love story. Victoria truly loved Albert and Albert truly loved Victoria. Albert was a level headed, smart man and was of great help to Victoria in her role as monarch. There are many memorials to Victoria and Albert in London, Royal Albert Hall, Victoria and Albert Museum, to name a couple. Victoria and Albert parented nine children and created a warm, loving household. A wonderful film that highlights their story is Young Victoria. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the first of the royals to occupy Buckingham Palace, the current home of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
Growing up, Victoria was rather smothered by her mother. Her father had passed away when she was quite young and her mother felt it necessary to keep Victoria away from any harm. She was kept at home in Kensington Palace where they lived (and where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are now living) and considered her upbringing “rather melancholy”. Her relationship, therefore, with her mother was not the sweetest. Prince Albert was instrumental in “sweetening” this mother/daughter relationship and when her mother passed away in 1861, Victoria was by her side. It was through reading some of her mother’s papers after her passing that Victoria realized that her mother loved her deeply and Victoria went into a bit of a depression because of this. Albert stepped up to the plate, even though he was suffering from a stomach disorder, and did a lot of Victoria’s duties at this time.
It was shortly after, they heard that the Prince of Wales, their eldest son, had slept with an actress, that Prince Albert went to Cambridge, where his son was studying, to confront him. This was not received well by the Prince of Wales. A few weeks later, Albert was diagnosed with typhoid fever and died. Victoria was devastated. She blamed her husband’s death on worry over the Prince of Wales’s philandering. He had been “killed by that dreadful business”, she said, and entered a state of mourning. Victoria wore black for the rest of her life and did not come out in public for many years.
The country went through rocky times as their Queen was not present, neither physically, nor emotionally. She did try to fulfill her duty as Queen but chose to do so from her residences, not appearing in public.
John Brown, or “Mr. Brown” as he has become known, was one of Victoria and Albert’s outdoor servants at Balmoral Castle, their Scottish retreat. After Albert’s death, Victoria made John Brown one of her personal servants and a close relationship ensued. This is depicted beautifully in the film “Mrs. Brown”, which is the name some of her public gave to Victoria. People have speculated on just how close their relationship was, but one does not know for sure. Without a doubt, John Brown brought the Queen out of her depressed state and more into life. She was very saddened by his death, having had a long and lasting closeness with him.
Though Victoria suffered much loss, she did a lot as Queen. She was a strong Queen, for the most part,and wanted to be involved in the goings on of the country.
She died at the age of 81 in Osbourne House, a grand Italian Renaissance palazzo on the Isle of Wight which her beloved Albert had designed and built.
Without a doubt, Victoria left us with an amazing legacy, and had an influence on our culture which is still recognized and felt today. Home and family have become synonymous with Victoria. She no doubt very much approved of those values we hold so dear….love, joy and abundant living.